John Milton’s sonnet “To the Lord General Cromwell May 1652” would serve as a pertinent epigraph for Forrest C. Pogue’s George C. Marshall: Statesman, 1945-1959:
Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud Not of war only, but detractions rude, Guided by faith and matchless Fortitude, To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough’d,And on the neck of crowned Fortune proud Hast rear’d God’s Trophies and his work pursu’d, ............................................ yet much remains To conquer still; peace hath her victories No less renown’d than war, new foes arise.
The emphasis on faith and fortitude, and particularly the phrase, “Peace hath her victories/ No less renown’d than war,” fit well into the themes of the book; even the “detractions rude” are present. In this world, as in Marshall’s career, new foes constantly arise.
Pogue’s book has two important functions: It is the fourth and final volume of an excellent and monumental biography, and it is a thorough portrayal of world history, Eastern and Western, from 1945 through 1951. The remaining years, from 1952 to 1959, furnish an epilogue, necessary to the biography but less gripping as history.
A reader coming to George C. Marshall: Statesman after reading the first three volumes of the biography—subtitled: “Education of a General, 1880-1939” (1963), “Ordeal and Hope, 1939-42” (1966), and “Organizer of Victory, 1943-45” (1973)—will have some advantage over a reader who comes to this volume alone; the publishers, however, seemed to wish to separate this volume from the others, even by format and jacket cover, to indicate that it could well be read alone. The first three volumes were introduced with forewords by General Omar N. Bradley, whose death ended an assignment which he obviously treasured. The foreword to George C. Marshall: Statesman is by Drew Middleton, distinguished journalist and foreign correspondent, who covered the war in Europe from 1939 to its end, and the postwar period there until 1965.
Middleton begins his foreword with an account of a casual discussion of great men of the twentieth century by three Britons and two Americans. The five included a cabinet member, a diplomat, a historian, an editor, and a foreign correspondent, familiar with the great and the near-great in many parts of the world. There was unanimity on only two men of the century: Winston S. Churchill and George C. Marshall. According to Middleton, any reader of Pogue’s book will understand the “unanimity of the five on Marshall.” Middleton’s foreword is an excellent composition: Anyone without the staying power to cope with the six-hundred-page book would do well to read it thoughtfully. It is a concise summary and critical essay combined. He enters a mild demurrer to what he thinks is Pogue’s stress on Marshall’s failure in China. He believes that the cards were so stacked against him that “Talleyrand, Metternich and Castlereagh could not have pulled it off.” Middleton’s position on the postwar crises with Russia, when the possibilities of a third world war called for a calculated risk, is that the United States was fortunate to have the secretary of state and the president that it did have. He considers Marshall’s Harvard speech, which led to the European Recovery Plan, the high point of American diplomacy since World War II. He ends his foreword: “In the book Mr. Pogue has done more than record the final successes of George C. Marshall’s career. He has restored the man to us in all his great dimensions. In war and peace he made a generation proud to be Americans.”
In his preface, Pogue speaks of having spent at least thirty years with Marshall, as Douglas Southall Freeman spoke of living twenty years with Robert E. Lee. During those thirty years, Pogue’s admiration and respect increased for the man he characterizes as “this giant of the twentieth century.” He presents some of the problems of writing and publishing a biography composed over so many years. Apparently he began expecting to do three volumes: Education of a General, World War II, and Statesman; but the material on World War II got out of hand, and not even two volumes could do justice to it. When volume 3 went to press, the author considered devoting an entire volume to China, thus expanding the biography to five volumes. Washington Irving’s Life of Washington (1855-1859) grew from two projected volumes to five completed ones. It certainly would have been easier for Pogue to cope with the enormous amount of his material in five volumes or six, instead of four. A reader can get some idea of the scope of Pogue’s research by skimming the acknowledgements and the selected bibliography (twelve pages of small print).
The unity of volume 4 would have been improved if it had not been necessary to cover the close of World War II after the prologue; it is ungracious, however, to quibble over “what might have been” instead of praising the superb work that the author and the publishers have given to posterity. It will surely remain valuable to future generations.
The prologue could be produced as a one-act play for television. It begins with the announcement of Marshall’s replacement as chief of staff by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then shifts to a ceremony in the courtyard of the Pentagon, with appropriate music, including “The Spirit of V.M.I.,” played by the army band. General Marshall delivered a brief farewell address, thanking the armed forces for their loyal service. He then pointed out the terrible conditions in Europe, where people were suffering hunger and cold. He urged the younger people to face the grim problems of the world and to dedicate themselves to alleviating them. The germ of the Harvard speech was in these words.
The next scene shifts to the domestic front. The general and his wife had left their quarters at Fort Myer and moved into an apartment, anticipating a peaceful retirement and relief from...